Remembering Myron Dewey

Headshot of Myron Dewey.

Myron Dewey (1972–2021), former Lehman Brady Visiting Joint Chair Professor of Documentary and American Studies at Duke University and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, died unexpectedly on September 26, 2021.

We are deeply saddened by this sudden and tragic loss and extend our condolences to Myron's family.

Myron was based at the Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) at Duke for the Spring 2019 semester; he had a tremendous impact across both campuses during his time with us:

“Myron Dewey has been a mentor to many of Duke’s Native students since he served as a visiting professor in Spring 2019. He was very supportive of us and the goals of the Native American Student Alliance (NASA). In his short time at Duke, he helped NASA finally gain a space in the Center for Multicultural Affairs.

I took Myron's class my freshman year. He taught me what it means to be an indigenous activist, and the importance of decolonization efforts in Duke and in my home community. Myron's support helped me at a time when I felt culturally isolated. He helped me navigate the culture shock I experienced when transitioning from living in a Native community to coming to Duke. I will forever be grateful for the care and guidance that he provided to Duke’s Native community.

We will miss him greatly, but we will never forget him or his teachings.”

—Scarlett Guy (Eastern Band Cherokee)
President of Duke Native American Student Alliance

“I was blessed to have been Myron’s graduate teaching assistant while he was at Duke. By the end of the class, I had gained a friend and mentor.

One of the biggest lessons Myron taught me was that sacred spaces don’t always need to be burial sites and temples. Instead, they are wherever prayers are offered, songs are sung, bread is shared, and medicine is given. Our class inside of CDS was truly a sacred place. It was amazing to watch him work with our Native students as he helped them with historical trauma and encouraged and gave advice about issues between NASA and Duke University.

This was the most important class I had during my time at Duke. Myron Dewey has made a lasting impact on my life and Art.”

—Bishop Ortega
MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts ’20, Duke University

“Nothing is more sacred than protecting our most precious resources for future generations. Filmmaker, journalist, and digital storyteller Myron Dewey brought to life an indigenous movement to protect water for all of us. He will be remembered by us as an engaged colleague, fierce intellect, and fantastic teacher. He will be deeply mourned and missed by us.”

—Sharon P. Holland
Chair and Townsend Ludington Distinguished Professor

Department of American Studies, UNC–Chapel Hill

“Myron was a gifted teacher and facilitator, and it was a privilege to witness how he brought his whole self to his class and students. Myron posed questions of his students and colleagues that asked us to re-think fundamental assumptions about our relationships to land, education, and to creation itself. I’m grateful for the many ways Myron brought forward his generosity, humor, intellect, and sincerity.”

—Chris Sims, Undergraduate Education Director
Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University

Donations to Myron’s family’s fund to assist with funeral expenses can be made here.


Note: In November 2021, in celebration of Native American Heritage Month, the Native American Student Alliance (NASA) at Duke University and students in Professor Jessica Namakkal's Decolonization class hosted a film screening of Awake, A Dream From Standing Rock to raise awareness about Indigenous activism against the Dakota Access Pipeline and to honor Awake director Myron Dewey. A discussion and Q&A was led by NASA president Scarlett Guy and former Center for Documentary Studies director Wesley Hogan.

Myron Dewey was a filmmaker, journalist, digital storyteller, and the founder of Digital Smoke Signals, a media production company that aims to give a platform to indigenous voices in media. His drone footage of the Standing Rock movement protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) marked him as one of the most important journalistic voices working on environmental and indigenous issues. Through both Digital Smoke Signals and his own media work, Dewey sought to bridge the digital divide throughout Indian Country and to indigenize media with core indigenous cultural values.

Dewey received numerous awards for his journalism and media production, including the Michelle Moor Award for Community Journalism and the Man of the Year Award from Medicine Winds News. In 2018 he was given an Award of Merit by the University of Kansas Department of Film & Media Studies; he was a 2017 winner of the New York City Drone Film Festival in the category of News/Documentary for a short film monitoring North Dakota police at the NoDAPL protest site; and he co-directed the award-winning 2017 film Awake: A Dream from Standing Rock, which tells the story of the NoDAPL movement and the native-led peaceful resistance and fight for clean water, the environment, and the future of the planet.

Dewey had over twenty years of experience working to bridge the digital divide in media and technology throughout Indian Country, both as an educator and technology expert building technology infrastructures. He began his career as a wildland firefighter and firefighting trainer at Haskell Indian Nations University and went on to work as a webmaster, technical trainer, and technical consultant at both Haskell Indian Nations University and the University of Kansas from 2000 to 2007. From 2009 to 2013 he taught computing, digital media, and mobile app programming at Northwest Indian College in Tulalip, Washington, where he received the Teacher of the Year Award in 2010. That year, he was accepted into the acclaimed Americans for Indian Opportunity (AIO) Ambassadors Program, where he expanded his projects to build technological equity for indigenous people.